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MOUNT WASHINGTON - It will be a clash of two seemingly unstoppable forces on Friday when Bullitt East plays host to Calloway County in a Class 4-A play-off semi-final.
Calloway County brings to town a high-powered offense that has been chewing up teams in western Kentucky this season. The Lakers are averaging 36 points a contest this season. Coach Josh McKeel’s team has scored at least 21 points in each of its 13 games this season.
Bullitt East counters with a defense that has been downright nasty the past month. Over the past four weeks, the Chargers have given up just 34 points in four victories.
But, as is often the case at this point in the post-season, the two teams have little to compare them to each other. There are no common opponents and there really are no opponents of opponents. Calloway County (which is located in Murray) has stayed in western Kentucky this season while Bullitt East has stuck to the Louisville area.
Bullitt East head coach Doug Preston traded five tapes with Calloway County over the weekend, but there really is no baseline to compare the two programs.
“In a way, that is good,” Preston said on Monday. “Film doesn’t always tell the tale. It’s different and a little more difficult to know what they can really do and what the level of competition is.
“When you play Marion County and North Bullitt you know who they have played,” the coach added. “There is no way to know at what level they have been playing.”
That said, the Lakers have been very impressive on tape.
The Lakers are led by one of the state’s top juniors in running back Tyrrell Willis (number 31) who is 6-2 and 240-pounds. Willis has rushed for 1,602 yards on 245 carries this season in 13 games.
“The only player I could compare him to would be the fullback from Marion County, but he is more athletic” Preston said of Willis. “He is a big and strong and fast kid.”
Still, even as good as Willis is, Calloway County is a spread offense that likes to air it out behind quarterback Casey Brockman (number 8). The Lakers have rushed for an impressive 1,971 yards this season, but have thrown for 3,167 yards.
For the most part, Willis is the only running back that will line up in the backfield with Brockman. The Lakers don’t have another player averaging more than 20 yards a game on the ground than Willis. Calloway County will often spread out three wide receivers with a tight end.
There are two talented receiving threats in seniors Chris Dobbins (number 21) and George Garner (number 33). Both are small, quick receivers as Dobbins is 5-8, 155 while Garner is 5-11, 177.
Brockman will throw it deep. In 13 games, he has completed 188 of 328 passes for 3,066 yard with 34 touchdowns to only eight interceptions.
Dobbins has 71 catches for 1,117 yards and nine touchdowns while Garner has made 56 catches for 1,010 yards with 13 touchdowns. Willis is the next leading receiver on the team with 30 catches for 524 yards.
Dobbins is also the Lakers’ leading kick returner.
Up front, Calloway County has a huge lineman in junior Grant Williams (number 77) at 6-5, 258 pounds. The rest of the line is comparable in size to that of Bullitt East.
On the other side of the ball, Preston has seen the Lakers primarily in a 4-4 or 4-3 look. However, since Bullitt East has not been throwing the ball a lot, he expects to see more players closer to the line.
“Like a lot of people, they will come up with something different to stop our running game,” the coach said. “It will be close to 11 guys up there like last week.”
Both teams will use key personnel on both sides of the ball. Willis and Garner are the top two tacklers for the Lakers.
While it is a high-powered offense for the Lakers, they have also given up a lot of points this season. While Bullitt East has given up 20 points in three post-season games, Calloway County has given up 70 points in three close games.
Still, coach Josh McKeel’s team has not lost since Sept. 26 when they fell 45-42 at Lone Oak. In fact, the Lakers’ two losses came in back-to-back weeks as they lost 42-24 to Marshall County the previous week. After starting the season 3-2, Calloway County has strung together eight straight wins.
Still, the play-offs have been tougher for Calloway County than for Bullitt East. The Lakers had the number seed in their district despite a three-way tie with Lone Oak and Hopkins County Central with 2-1 records.
Against a number four seed, Calloway County beat Russell County 34-19. The next week it was a 28-25 victory over Franklin-Simpson before they beat Allen County-Scottsville 42-26 last week for the Region 1 title.
Even with the bitter cold the past two weeks, Calloway County is still putting the ball in the air. In the win over Allen County-Scottsville, McKeel’s team threw for 213 yards while rushing for 169 yards. Willis rushed for 173 yards on 30 carries with three of the touchdowns while Brockman was 11 of 21 through the air for 160 yards. Willis also completed a 53-yard pass in the win.
This is McKeel’s fourth season as the head coach at Calloway County. He was an assistant coach for three years before that. He is a former Calloway County player.
The Lakers were 7-5 last season with two of the losses coming to Lone Oak, the eventual state runner-up. The year before that they were 4-7, losing in the first round of the play-offs.
Preston did say on Monday that senior running back Kyle Lingar would not be available for this game. He suffered a serious ankle injury late in the North Bullitt game and will probably not be able to play again this season.
Bullitt East also played last week without junior running back Jonathan Bernard because of a personal issue. It was not clear on Monday if he would be available.
Other than those two players, Preston expected everyone else to be ready to go for this big game.
While Preston and his coaching staff will be busier than normal this week watching film and coming up with a game plan, the coach says that he doesn’t want to take his players out of their normal routine. Preston has coached in games at this level when he was an assistant coach at Danville and the Bullitt East seniors played in a state semi-final when they were freshmen.
“The big thing is to approach it like you always do,” the coach said. “We have four days to work on it and then we have 48 minutes on Friday. If you think past the 48 minutes, then you get beat.
“These kids have taken that to heart. That’s why we are in the state semi-finals,” Preston said. “We’ll be fine with our focus.”
Bullitt East made the big change in the middle of the regular season when Preston scrapped the veer offense and installed the wishbone. There are no big changes, though, at this point in the season.
“Maybe a few wrinkles,” the coach said of doing anything different. “We’ll pretty much keep doing what we’ve been doing. This is no time to second-guess yourself. You just do what you have been doing and maybe do it better.”
Calloway County will be making a 220 mile trip to Mount Washington for this game. The Lakers did win last Friday on the road at Allen County-Scottsville.
This will be the first meeting ever between the two schools for a football game.
Game time on Friday in Mount Washington is set for 8 p.m.